Re: On their use of the term white supremacy

As usual, in her own inimitable style, Kathleen Fitzpatrick has provoked some thinking about discursive practices and power. She identifies a tendency towards appropriation (and dilution) of key words.

The gravity of these events and our larger cultural moment leave me struggling to figure out how to put this: I am worrying a bit about how widespread the use of “white supremacy” has become when used to talk about obviously racist mass shootings. Because I’m convinced that the mainstream white-supremacist Right is starting to find an out in the term. Something as horrible as El Paso is so beyond white supremacism that Ted effing Cruz and whatsername the orange one’s daughter can use those very words in tweets and yet distance themselves from their larger import. So when we talk about voter suppression, about redlining, about the million microaggressions that people of color face every day, they will have created ground on which to say “ONLY THAT qualifies as white supremacist, you are trivializing the concept by using it to refer to (X thing I regularly do but know I shouldn’t).”

Got me thinking and pondering in the epistolary mode.


How does one meet the accusation of trivializing the terms of the debate?

Feminists have done so by focusing on “trivia” and giving import to the
mundane, that is by interrogating the very foundations of the assignment
of value. Their impact has been cumulative.

List making and sharing is one tactic that allows people to recapture the
definitional gambit (see especially Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post).
And to pressure the discourse away from newspeak. And furthermore it is such vigilance that challenges who can say what when – witness the reactions to the NY Times headline* on the President’s call for unity vs racism. Storytelling matters. Stories bring values alive.

Values inhabit the stories we tell, including the stories we tell about
their story making. The critical edge will not be dulled. Vigilance will
not slumber. At any time and any place, there is the possibility of going
meta, inquiring into the bases of the discourse.

I am grateful to you for having reminded us of this.

All the best,


‘Headline was flawed’: New York Times changed headline about Trump speech after backlash

And so for day 2497

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